The rising Hip Hop artist’s latest album In My Head has reached #5 on iTunes in Canada and #10 in the US. That’s quite an incredible accomplishment for the Oregon based rapper, but for much deeper reasons than most might know. I sat down with the man named after a gun, to hear the story behind his breakthrough record. Just last year he went through one of the most trying times of his life and career after returning to drugs, suffering from depression and struggling with his weight around the time a sudden change in his creative direction resulted in losing half of his 250,000 Spotify followers. He touches on much of this in the album’s opening track, Twenty 21, a powerful anthem that takes accountability for the lows of 2020 promising a brighter future – asking loyal fans for forgiveness and sending a giant middle finger to the fans who fell off. This entire project is his comeback, and from the sound of it there’s nowhere but up from here.
Meet Enkay47. Enkay is actually the initials of his name, Nathan Kawaguchi, spelled out. Kawaguchi is the last name of the man that raised him. His biological father left when he was too young to remember. And the crazy part is, until he was 14 years old he had no idea that the only dad he’d ever known was not actually related to him. It was this revelation at such a tender, transitional age that was the catalyst for the emotion fueled music he makes now – that and hearing Without Me by Eminem. Before this, he had only really seen white people in Rock and Country music. Seeing someone that looked and sounded like him in the world of Hip Hop awakened something inside of himself that he felt drawn to explore. “Hiphop music was the first place I felt that safety, that connection that inner peace, ” he reflects on his first time hearing Eminem’s music, “It helped me out a lot. Once I saw how music impacted my life and pulled me out of the place I was in, I thought if I could do that… that would be my life’s purpose.” Before that, he wanted to be an author. He always loved writing and was passionate about fantasy. “I’ve always had issues with disassociating,” he explains, appreciating how the genre allowed him to process the world around him through the way it metaphorically depicted societies. Unable to communicate his pain after this shocking discovery, writing became his method of connecting to others he cared about and sharing the emotions he desperately needed to release. “I use my music as a means to get rid of emotional waste.”
But his music does much more than that. He has garnered millions of listeners that relate to the passionate delivery of his authentic writings. Yes, I said millions. Enkay’s music career journey has already been quite a whirlwind full of overnight success highs and the aforementioned lows. It all happened pretty fast after he won a contest back in 2016. He remembers the call like it was yesterday. “I was working at a pizza place in Silverton, Oregon when my phone started blowing up,” he recalls, “I went from like 20 views to thousands overnight.” From there, he became the opener for touring Alternative Hip Hop artist, Cryptic Wisdom, introducing the starry eyed rapper-singer to the big stage with a first look at what life could be like for him. Then just as his dreams were taking on a life of their own, the world he knew began to crumble beneath his feet when the love of his life was unfaithful in their relationship. Enkay broke, and all of the rage and hurt that was poisoning his soul came out in a song. That single, Lesson Learned, went viral and a new chapter began. “I’m not proud of it. I wish I could take it down.” Enkay comments on his very graphic, maliciously vengeful lyrics. But he’s also not someone to hide the ugly parts of his story. Nowadays he is confident that he would handle breakups very differently. He’s handling life better in general. And a huge motivation to continue becoming the man he believes he’s meant to be is witnessing the real-time impact his music is having on his friends and fans around the world. One particular situation that he’ll never forget happened when his song Toxic helped an abuse victim clearly see her situation. She drove hours to see his show and shared her story in the merch line. That night, Enkay and his team took her to dinner and helped her leave her abusive boyfriend.
Are you fan-girling yet? Don’t let the bass in his voice and the anger in his vocal performance fool you. Although troubled like the rest of us, he’s a genuine sweetheart. He takes it all out on his music because when he’s not doing that he takes it out on himself. This young man barely into his twenties speaks with wisdom beyond his years when he talks about how even after being given the chance of a lifetime, in a single moment he almost lost it all. And he’s never taking it for granted again. His new album is a huge step forward making beauty out of ashes. He addresses his battle with substance abuse in Sober. This morning I played the song for a group of high school students in addiction recovery and he sent a personal encouraging message that put smiles on their faces. He’s reverentially aware that so many of the things that should have destroyed him have begun working for his good only because he made a decision to shift the way he saw life’s hardships. That’s what the title of the album, “In My Head” is about. The idea for the concept came as he was listening to one of his favorite authors/speakers, Professor of Psychology, Jordan Peterson – “Everything we perceive is in our head. We have the ability to refocus or reframe it.” He began to do the hard work of consistently renewing his mind through journaling and meditation. “Journaling is a powerful tool.” He confesses, “I created 2 versions of myself: one transcendent version that I want to be – he has everything he wants and isn’t afraid of rejection or heights. He’s living extremely happily. And another version that continues going down that dark road. His life is awful. I’ve felt like both versions of myself.”
He recently released a music video for the track that shares the album’s title with the multi-gifted singer/ songwriter/ producer, Sarah Cleary. The creative duo who both have individually earned impressive fan bases actually attended the same high school. Together they created the perfect song and visual to sum up the entire album with lyrics like, “When I close my eyes and I face inside, I just know that I am never going back to the way that I was.” And with a generation watching, Enkay47 plans to make good on that declaration and help as many people as possible along the way. Check out music and follow his journey.
Author: Gabrielle Solange